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More Armenian Ministers Replaced


Armenia -- Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan at a news conference in Yerevan, April 9, 2019.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian replaced on Friday Armenia’s ministers of defense, labor and emergency situations as part of a cabinet reshuffle promised by him earlier this week.

Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and Labor and Social Affairs Ministers Zaruhi Batoyan were replaced by two of Pashinian’s advisers: Vagharshak Harutiunian and Mesrop Arakelian respectively.

Harutiunian is a retired army general who had served as defense minister from 1999-2000.

Another, active duty general, Andranik Piloyan was appointed as minister of emergency situations. His predecessor, Felix Tsolakian, stepped down on Tuesday one day after Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian’s resignation.

The resignations were widely attributed to the six-week war with Azerbaijan which resulted in significant Armenian territorial losses in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

The outcome of the war, stopped by a Russian-mediated truce on November 10, sparked street protests in Yerevan and opposition demands for Pashinian’s resignation. The prime minister and his political allies have rejected those demands.

Armenia -- Police officers detain an opposition protester demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation, Yerevan, November 20, 2020.
Armenia -- Police officers detain an opposition protester demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation, Yerevan, November 20, 2020.

Pashinian announced on Wednesday that he will reshuffle his government to implement over the next six months a plan of actions designed to “establish stability and security in the country.” The 15-point plan, dismissed by the opposition as a gimmick, calls for a major reform of Armenia’s armed forces.

Some pro-government lawmakers have blamed Tonoyan for the military defeat in Karabakh. The Armenian Defense Ministry has rejected the criticism.

In a statement issued right after his sacking, Tonoyan said: “Am I satisfied with my performance during the war and the run-up to it? I think that some conceptual directions, which I did not have enough time to complete, need a revision. In this sense, I am ready to bear my share of responsibility.”

Tonoyan indicated at the same time that he believes now is not the right time to evaluate his track record. “The existing situation needs to be defused,” he said.

Pashinian appointed Tonoyan as defense minister after he swept to power in May 2018. Tonoyan, who will turn 53 next week, had served as deputy defense minister from 2010-2017, during former President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule.

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